The academic market and the rise of universities in medieval and early modern Europe (1000-1800)
IRES discussion papers 2019/19
Louvain-la-Neuve, Catholic University of Louvain (2019)
Medieval universities are one of the most original creations of Western civilization. Students were educated by a plurality of masters, and scholars came from all parts of Europe. In this paper, we build an original database of thousands of scholars from university sources, and map the academic market in the medieval and early modern periods. Using a random utility model, we show that scholars tend to agglomerate in the best universities, and that this phenomenon is more pronounced within the upper tail of the talent distribution (positive sorting). The quality of scholars is measured by their publications. Agglomeration and sorting patterns testify to a functioning academic market, made possible by political fragmentation and the use of a common language (Latin). Using counterfactual simulations, we show that market forces shaped the geographic distribution of upper-tail human capital across Europe, and contributed to bolstering European universities at the dawn of the Humanistic and Scientific Revolutions.
Keywords: Europe, agglomeration